“Yes,” replied the boy, “and he said he would be sure to find you.”
And this proved but too true, for the next time that Madelaine arrived with her basket full at Teuzer’s stall, she found a policeman waiting for her. “Put that down” he said gravely, “and follow me.”
Madelaine trembled so violently that she was unable to obey, and the woman who kept the stall for Master Teuzer, and the policeman, were obliged to support her. “But,” asked the former, “what has the poor child done to be arrested?”
“She will soon know,” replied the other, as he led Madelaine away. She walked beside him in silence, her head hanging down, for she felt too much ashamed to raise her eyes; but she became still paler, and a torrent of burning tears ran down her cheeks when she heard harsh voices saying, “She is a thief: so young and already a thief.” Even the policeman now felt pity for her grief, and to turn her attention from the remarks of the passers by, he said to her, “Your teacher has reported you for being absent from school six days without leave. Is it your mother’s fault? for in that case you are free, and I must arrest her.”
“My mother is entirely innocent,” answered Madelaine firmly, and looking up, for she felt some comfort in the thought, that her poor mother would be spared punishment. Madelaine had not even mentioned to her being absent from school. The policeman brought her to a lockup house, where she was put into a large room, already crowded with females, waiting to be examined for their various offences. Madelaine’s heart sunk, when she looked around upon those into whose society she was thus thrust. Some were intoxicated, others were gambling, quarrelling, and using profane and dreadful language. Mixed among these miserable women were several children, seeing and hearing all this wickedness.
How deeply responsible are those, who instead of trying to reclaim young offenders, place them in situations were they must inevitably become worse!
Poor Madelaine, like a timid bird, crouched into a corner, where covering her head with her apron she wept bitterly. “How my mother is grieving about me,” she thought, “and poor Raphael, who will make their soup to-day? Mother cannot even cut bread, or light the fire, and it is so cold, they must stay in bed all day. If I could even send them the six shillings which Master Teuzer paid me to-day, it is of no use here, and mother would be so glad to have the money to give the landlord, lest he should turn them into the street, if he does not get any of his rent.”
Thus uneasiness tormented Madelaine, the people she was among inspired her with disgust, she wished to be deaf that she might not hear their dreadful words. She thought of her teacher who had brought her to this, she could not have believed him capable of such harshness, she felt sure the apprentice must have shamefully calumniated her. And so indeed he had, for feeling jealous of the praise which his master bestowed upon this modest and industrious young girl, he took this means of removing her, envious at the idea of her sharing in the Christmas presents, which his master intended to distribute.